Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in the SIS Programme Office? Amongst our team we have Project Managers, Testers, Trainers, Developers, Business Analysts and more. Today we’re looking at a day in the life of a Developer or ‘Devs’ as we call them.
These are the people who work on our new student information system to develop it to meet our customers’ needs. They also develop new apps and software to make the new system even more efficient. We caught up with Andy Larter, one of our five developers, to find out a bit more.
What skills and experience does a developer need?
Experience of working with relational databases and large volumes of data is essential.
Specifically for us, an understanding of HE processes and the student lifecycle helps when designing and developing solutions
Non-technical skills such as communication and teamwork are also important. This becomes apparent when working to deadlines in our fortnightly development ‘sprint’
How does your role fit into the development cycle? At what stage do you get involved? When do you hand things over?
The development team contribute to the design, development and support of the Student Record System. We are also involved in testing, release deployment, project planning, prioritisation and requirement gathering.
For a typical development job we are given the requirements as part of a ‘User Story’. This is something that has been created by the product owner and will include the acceptance criteria of what the development should achieve. It is at this point we can start developing.
When the solution has been developed we handover the solution to the testing team for them to execute test plans. At this stage we may become involved again to answer queries or fix issues.
After testing is complete we work with the release manager to deploy the development for User Acceptance testing, and from there deployment to the live environment.
What’s a typical day like for you?
We start each day with a ‘stand-up’. This is a 15 minute meeting for developers and testers to talk about what work has been done the previous day and what we’ll be working on today. It’s also an opportunity to discuss any impediments
The main part of the day is spent developing solutions.
Regular development work is aligned to a two week ‘sprint’ which contains a list of developments we need to complete in line with the priorities of the programme. At the end of the sprint we have a completed list of developments that will form a release to the live environment. These can be bug fixes, enhancements and technical jobs such as software upgrades.
At the moment we have jobs in place to upgrade SITS to version 9.40 and for this sprint we’re doing this for the test environments.
In this sprint we also have developments to complete in the areas of Recruitment & Admissions, Academic Model, Assessment & Progression, Student Finance and Interface Management.
A developer is also assigned to be the designated support developer for a given day. This means they will take on any issues raised by the live user base. This could be, for example, applicant queries or queries from staff regarding live processes and also quires about data being interfaced in and out of the system (e.g. UCAS offers and responses)
Aside from the support channels above, a developer can also be approached with a number of day to day system related questions. An example recently would be system access for external consultants from the software vendor.
Developers are also required to attend various meetings on a daily basis. Today, for example, we’re attending a session to review the vendor supplied template for Student Enrolment. This will form the basis of requirement gathering and allow us to configure the template to make it fit to the UOH process.
Other sessions involve meeting colleagues from within the University such as ICTD and Admissions.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to deal with?
The University is a big and complex organisation so the biggest challenge is developing software to meet its requirements. This, however, is also one of the main reasons for doing the job. The challenge of creating the software makes the job interesting and provides motivation for all of us.
We also often have pressure to resolve issues in a short space of time, for example, if a solution is being tested for user acceptance we’ll have to solve the issue quickly to meet a release deadline.
The same can be applied for issues in the live environment, because these are business critical processes they need to be investigated and resolved in a timely manner.
Which part of the role gives you the most satisfaction?
Working with the talented people in our team and seeing our solutions being used by our applicants, students and staff.